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Visiting bishops note strain recent events placed on Mideast countries

Bishops who traveled to the Holy Land to assess the local church's needs noted the "profound anxiety" that the "dark and dramatic events" of the past year have caused in the region.

The civil war in Syria has resulted in an increasingly large number of refugees pouring into other countries, putting an enormous strain on national and government resources, they said. The situation within Israel and Palestine has also become increasingly polarized, they added.

British bishops resist move to allow monarch to marry a Catholic

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A royal row has broken out between Church of England bishops and Prime Minister David Cameron's liberal-minded coalition government over a planned bill to change ancient laws governing the royal line of succession.

The government wants to pass the proposed Succession to the Crown Bill in time for the birth of a baby to Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, this summer.

The new law would ensure that if the first royal baby is a girl, she will become heir to the throne rather than have to yield to a male sibling.

Africa rises, China falls on Christian persecution list

The persecution of Christians "vastly rose" in 2012 as radical Islamists consolidated power in Africa, according to Open Doors, a Christian missionary organization that publishes an annual list of offending nations.

Increasing threats to African Christians can be seen in focused attacks, such as the killings of Christians in Nigerian churches by the radical Muslim group Boko Haram, but also in the greater prevalence of radical Muslims in government, according to the California-based Open Doors.

Nigerian president: Religious leaders can help end nation's crises

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Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan urged religious leaders to mold the characters of their followers to help stop the current crises facing the country.

He also noted that Christianity and Islam -- the country's two major religions -- did not preach violence, and those who kill should not be considered religious.

Caracas cardinal asks Venezuelans to pray for ailing president

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Caracas Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino asked Venezuelans to pray for President Hugo Chavez as he battles cancer.

"In the first place, we all are going to pray for the health of President Chavez, who, as the vice president has said, is in a delicate condition," Urosa told news channel Globovision on Tuesday. "We are going to ask God that he strengthens him in these moments and, on the other hand, that the uncertainly is going to dissipate Jan. 10."

French bishops back plans for rally against same-sex marriage bill

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France's Catholic bishops are backing plans for a national demonstration against same-sex marriage legislation, which is expected to be approved by lawmakers later in January.

"I won't be participating -- not because I don't agree with the demonstration, but because I don't think I need to march when I have to make something known to the government and president," Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, president of the bishops' conference, told France's Le Figaro daily.

Senegalese Catholic helps women get education to beat poverty

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When she heard from the village chief that a 14-year-old girl was being forced to leave school and marry, Senegalese aid worker Constance Mbaye could think of only one thing to do.

"I gave the chief my telephone number and address and told him to tell the girl that if she could escape and make it to the city, I would take care of her," said Mbaye, a Catholic who once thought she wanted to be a nun.

Irish cardinal urges Catholics to make known their abortion opposition

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The president of the Irish bishops' conference urged Catholics to make their views on abortion clear to politicians as the government considers legalizing abortion in limited circumstances.

In his Christmas message, Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, reiterated the church's opposition to such legislation.

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July 18-31, 2014

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